Wednesday, April 28, 2021

How India’s airline sector troubles with Covid surge are spilling into global travel market

New Delhi: The ferocious surge in new coronavirus cases that has turned India into the global pandemic hotspot has also reversed one of the airline industry’s biggest travel comebacks.

Carriers in India had reached 87% of their pre-pandemic seat capacity through early April, based on a Bloomberg analysis of data from flight tracker OAG. That progress has now unraveled as the surge in infections led to a pullback in domestic flights, which make up the vast majority of the market.

As of the start of this week, capacity had fallen to 71% of 2019 levels, a 16 percentage-point drop over three weeks, the data show. Further eroding demand is a move by nations including Singapore, Australia, the U.K. and the United Arab Emirates to impose restrictions on visitors from India.

Using weekly OAG data, Bloomberg has built a flight tracker to monitor the pulse of the global air-travel comeback. The latest update shows continued progress in China, while plans to increase capacity in the U.S. and Europe haven’t yet taken hold. With operators still canceling flights from India, the number of seats offered globally may have fallen slightly from last week.

India’s expansive domestic network made it one of the world’s fastest-growing countries for aviation before the recent Covid-19 outbreak. Short-haul carriers such as IndiGo propelled India to the world’s third-largest market. And earlier on in the pandemic, the South Asian country of 1.4 billion people won plaudits for enforcing strict social distancing rules that lowered the infection rate. But now the country’s public health system is being overwhelmed by an aggressive surge in cases, with daily infections exceeding 300,000.

As the outbreak overwhelms the nation’s hospitals and crematoriums, an upturn in air travel won’t happen until the latest crisis is contained, said Rob Morris, the head of consultancy at U.K. aviation advisory firm Cirium.

“It looks as though things will get worse for the Indian aviation industry before they get better,’’ Morris said.

28/04/21 Layan Odeh and Siddharth Philip/Print

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